This charming piece by author, and Herald on Sunday books editor Nicky Pellegrino first appeared in the Herald on Sunday, 18 May 2008, and is reproduced here by kind permission of that newspaper and the author.
Much as I love summer, it brings with it a certain pressure to be out there, energetically enjoying all the country has to offer: the oceans, the forests, the beaches…with winter comes vile weather but also the chance to slow the pace, to mosey for a little while. And what could be a more perfect way to enjoy a wintry Sunday than to drift around Auckland discovering some of its boutique bookshops?
I tend to start at Dear Reader in Grey Lynn’s Richmond Road partly as it’s the bookshop nearest my home but also because it’s my fantasy living room. There are squishy sofas, big lanterns and walls lined with books I itch to read. The latest releases are thoughtfully chosen, there are a couple of shelves of interesting books on New Zealand, a selection on art, architecture and design plus a children’s section. Once I’m done browsing, I prefer to take a five minute stroll round the corner to the Richmond Road Café for poached eggs and broad bean mash on toast.
For second hand treasures, try the closely packed shelves at Dominion Books in Herne Bay’s Jervois Road. It’s a tiny shop but they’ve squeezed in heaps of reading with books on everything from history and religion to social sciences plus light reads, classics and out of print fiction. It’s easy to lose track of time in here but, since there’s nowhere to take the weight off your feet, afterwards you’ll need to head down the road to Fives Loaves and Two Fish for a flat white and possibly a restorative plate of savoury mince on toast. From there the table of bargain books outside nearby Novel is bound to catch your eye. Chances are you’ll be drawn inside by something offbeat like a coffee table book on shoes or a photography volume on retro swimming pools.
At The Women’s Bookshop in Ponsonby Road choosing a good read has been made simpler by owner Carole Beu who attaches her own short reviews to books she’s particularly enjoyed. There’s also a wall dedicated to the top 50 women writers of the last 50 years as voted by thousands of NZ readers nationwide.
Margaret Atwood’s at number 1 with The Handmaid’s Tale and The Blind Assassin and Marge Piercy has just scraped in at number 50 with Woman On The Edge of Time. In between you’ll find Kiwi favourites like Janet Frame, Patricia Grace, Elizabeth Knox, Fiona Kidman and Shonagh Koea. Once you’ve checked out the other shelves stocked with books on stuff like spirituality, health and motherhood cross the road to SPQR and see if you can bags the table next to the fire for a glass of pinot noir and a bowl of pasta (I recommend the creamy fettucine with chicken).
Alternatively head to Newmarket where, opposite the Rialto cinema, there’s the Baci Lounge, a “new concept” bookstore cum café. You can buy a wrap, salad or cake and settle down at a table to peruse literary and popular fiction, books for the armchair traveler, biographies, self-help and gift books. On the wall there’s a selection of “media picks” – books everyone is talking about – and you get a free coffee with every book purchased.
The most seductive bookstore in town has to be Parsons at the top of Lorne Street in the city. It’s multiplicity of volumes on art, fashion, design, typography and photography are just. The back room is dedicated to one of the best selections of NZ books with poetry, fiction, art books and much more.
After that the only sensible thing to do is head down to Unity Books in High Street. What’s so nice about browsing here is that there are lots of tables in the middle of the shop and, although the stock ranges widely from biographies and business, to theatre, music and movies, the shelves don’t feel cluttered and you’re bound to find that book you’ve been meaning to read for ages.
There are plenty more places to go hunting: Mt Eden’s Time Out Bookstore and Cook The Books just over the road, The Children’s Bookshop in Ponsonby, the Hard To Find Bookshop in Ponsonby and Onehunga, until you’re satisfyingly weighed down with packages and it’s time to go home for the best bit of all - the moment you sit down, somewhere comfortable and warm, open up a new book for the first time and begin to read.
Nicky Pellegrino's novels are Delicious and The Gypsy Tearoom. Her third title, The Italian Wedding is due February 2009. All published under the Orion imprint.